Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zen and The Art of Sewing Machine Maintenance

First the Zen: some new fabric goodies from an impromptu trip to Ikea.
The one on the left is a new design there, and I'm crazy about it. I love it so much that I'm putting too much pressure on finding the perfect project for it. I think of something, and then I think "No, not good enough."

I'm also finding myself very drawn to royal blues lately.

Now for a couple sewing tips I've learned recently. These are probably obvious to most people, but if you are a fairly new, mostly self-taught sewer like me, you might have to be told.

First of all, it did not occur to me that my sewing machine needed to be cleaned regularly until I had already had it at least a year and my mom told me. The thing about sewing machines is, they get really linty. Especially sewing with things like minky, which I use for the back of my monsters, or after big felt projects like Hendrix's playhouse. 

First you unscrew the little plate area. This is what it looks like on my Singer:
You can already see how linty it is just around the bobbin area.

But what's really fun is when you first take the plate off to behold all the grossness lurking beneath. Ew.

But wait. It gets even more gross when you take out the bobbin-receptacle-thingy. (Yes, I'm almost positive that's the technical name.)

Your machine probably came with a little brush thing like this one. If you can't find it, I'm sure you could use a toddler toothbrush or something.

Then proceed to wipe out large amounts of dirt. You really have to get deep into the crevices. You can even pretend to be an archeologist with fancy bone-dusting tools.

So I apologize if every one who owns a machine already knew this because they are actually smart people who read the manuals that come with devices like this. But I'm a bit slow to catch on, so maybe someone else out there is as well. Go clean your machines! They will run smoother.

I have one more tip to share that is probably also quite obvious. SPRAY STARCH!
For some reason, I was under the impression that only 50's housewives needed this stuff. But I bought some a couple weeks ago, and it makes ironing new fabric about 86x easier. I always wash and iron my fabric as soon as I get it in the mail so that it is ready to use when I need it. But it comes out of the dryer in quite a wad sometimes, with serious wrinkles. Starch= magic. And it doesn't even feel stiff at all. I always thought it was just for making things stiff. Not so.

Ok, now that I've shared my "duh, what an idiot" tips, I have a question. Does anyone have a good way to keep the cut ends of fabric from fraying in the wash? I heard about using pinking shears on the edges before putting them in the wash. I've tried that multiple times and it makes no difference at all. Still get those multi-colored thread balls coming out of the wash. I'd love your ideas. You guys are way smart.


  1. So, I had no idea about cleaning the machine. I guess it makes sense, just never thought of it.

    Also... love the new fabric.

  2. ugh! Thanks for the sewing machine maintenance reminder... now if you could just repost this once a month I would appreciate it! lol

    And fray stop works good on fabric before you wash... I do that with my fat quarters! Not sure I would do it on a yard or two.. that is a lot of work! LOL

  3. I have had no success with the thread balls in the wash, either--tried pinking, etc. But. I've started untangling the fabric and trimming the threads before throwing the wet fabric pieces into the dryer. Huge difference from before when I wouldn't trim threads. Not as many wrinkles and usually the fabric is not as tangled up either.

  4. thanks for that tutorial! I have done some minor sewing maching cleaning, but have never taken off the plate! can't wait to get that fuzz outa there. I LOVE doing that stuff. oh and I totally thought the same thing about starch so thanks for telling me about that too!!

  5. I bought a can of air at the electronics store for my computer keyboard. Now, I blow that around in my sewing machine to get all of the gunk out when I clean it too. Hopefully that doesn't break anything. I've been doing it for a year now with no problems. And, don't forget to oil your machine! I was reading another blog that said to cut a small corner off of each end of the fabric before you put it in the wash and the fraying isn't so bad. I haven't tried it yet though.

  6. be careful starching your fabrics then storing they attract some bugs that are super creepy

    also you may need to look into oiling your machine i think singers are ones that need oil?

    my mom told me about cleaning out the machine befor i even got one of my own =)

  7. I know this is a really old post but i'm stuck in bed ill today and wading my way through your fantastic blog. Two things i do to stop fraying -1- serge round the edge - it only take a minute or two. Secondly take off a triangle shape from one of the corners, it reduces the fraying a bit, but more importantly it stops them balling up into a hard to untangle mess!
    I hope that helps!


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